In last week’s health tip, I talked about Big Pharma’s predilection for creating illnesses to fit new chemicals, and how the controversial hypoactive sexual desire disorder (HSDD) was a “perfect match” for a failed antidepressant called flibanserin.
For some women, low sex drive or absence of it altogether is a manifestation of depression, along with other symptoms such as poor sleep, craving carbohydrates, and fatigue. Prescribing one of the common SSRI antidepressants (Zoloft, Paxil, or Lexapro) for the depression would only make matters worse, since these drugs carry low libido as a side effect.
If you’ve ever been prescribed an antidepressant and found your sex drive torpedoed, your doc may have switched you to Wellbutrin (bupropion), a mild antidepressant with a much better sexual side-effect track record. Could you use Wellbutrin as a means of shoring up a faded libido? Actually, you could, if mild depression were the culprit for your lack of sex drive. In fact, a few small clinical studies have shown that Wellbutrin works better than placebo for low libido in both women and men.
Is there a more natural route to take? Absolutely.
If you think your low sex drive is linked to mild depression, reach for St. John’s wort, taking 450 mg twice a day. Enhance it with 5HTP , 100 mg at bedtime. This combination will take a full month to kick in, but taking the duo is a proven-effective antidepressant with zero sexual side effects. Read more about St John’s wort here.
Let’s turn next to hormones. You’re pretty convinced your lack of sex drive is not based on being mildly depressed, but you just don’t have the spark you once had (or, if your friends’ locker room stories are true, maybe never had).
Low levels of the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone can dampen libido. Biologically, it’s the surge of estrogen starting at the end of your period that shifts you into sexual mode. After a few days, an egg gets released and starts screaming to be fertilized. At this point, sex is definitely more interesting. It can be a shock when, in your 40s, the relentless decline of both estrogen and the crazed urges you felt in your younger years diminish.
Along with estrogen, women also have a smaller amount of the male hormone testosterone, nature’s way of making you sexually aggressive enough to get that egg fertilized. (Men are so riddled with testosterone in their late teens and twenties they’d have sex with a venetian blind. Powerful stuff, testosterone.)
Small doses of both estrogen and testosterone can be used to enhance your sex drive, working especially well when combined with the serotonin enhancement of St. John’s wort. Have your estrogen and testosterone levels checked in your doctor’s office. If your levels are low, consider bioidentical hormones, compounded specifically for your needs, either as an oral capsule or skin cream.
When it comes to low libido, underactive thyroid, present in about 25% of women over 40, is frequently overlooked. Have your blood TSH (thyroid-stimulating hormone) checked and ask for treatment if your number is higher than 2.5. You can do a quick self-screen for underactive thyroid by measuring your basal body temperature.
In the non-hormonal realm, there are a variety of very safe herbs that have been used for hundreds of years to boost sex drive. These include two gloriously well-named herbs, mucuna pruriens and horny goat weed (epimedium sagittatum), along with maca, damiana, tribulus, rhodiola, and Siberian ginseng.
Although several of these herbs are available in a combination product like ITI Woman, you might also schedule a visit with our resident herbalist Seanna Tully and have her prepare a blend more in synch with your specific needs. Seanna is skilled, discreet, and happy to help you.
Finally, there’s a great deal to be said for taking the whole problem out of the doctor’s office and putting it into your own hands. Literally.